Anybody leaving on a dangerous assignment to a foreign land needs to realize that there are two possible routes to take in foreign policy. Teddy Roosevelt insisted that one should carry a big stick to intimidate one’s adversaries. Mahatma Gandhi, in contrast, advised a more peaceful policy that will carry no stick.
Today’s reality convincingly proves that the time when sticks were taken out and brandished for every conceivable purpose is gone. Today, a politician has to act wisely, speak softly, and use negotiations wherever possible to prevent the use of force.
Negotiations often seem a pure waste of time to someone with a military background. It can be a waste indeed when people do not know how to do it properly. Trying to resolve the conflict peacefully is a challenge to one’s abilities, brains, and experience. To meet this challenge head-on, it is helpful to adopt a few necessary tactics.
First of all, an excellent point to start is to find out what the other party wants. These wishes should not be taken for granted from their demands, since speeches may be masking something else. Quite a lot of people believe today, for instance, that North Korea is merely manipulating the West to extort financial assistance for the abandonment of nuclear weapons and may not, in fact, have any to dismantle. Looking carefully into the situation of the opponent and trying to understand the inner drives enables one to use the power of persuasion more effectively.
After sorting out information to gain some understanding of what is going on, it is necessary to formulate one’s position.
While it is easy to swoop on “them” with full force, lack of understanding in the adversary will prevent achievement of goals set. Demands have to be firm, but realistic. Asking a government to remove millions of people from a particular region overnight will not result in affirmative action because they will most likely lack the resources to do so. Being firm, but understanding will make a case secure even in the absence of military force.
It is even more critical to formulating one’s proposals in return for peaceful compliance with demands. These projects can embrace a long-term peace agreement, financial aid, and help in resolving inner conflicts. The benefits offered should be attractive, tangible, and not overstraining the nation back at home. The promise of billions in aid will result in a burden placed on fellow citizens. It is not easy to combine all these requirements, but this is a challenge a politician on a foreign mission should strive to meet, drawing on his or her intellectual capacity and education.
Finally, consistency is an indispensable ingredient of success. This quality makes one a reliable partner in the eyes of one’s opponents and promotes the ultimate goals. Promising peace today and launching bombings tomorrow is hardly a way to secure success. It is where negotiations are superior to the use of stick every time because the war is typically followed by a new round of negotiations where the party that has lost may have to go back on their demands.
Crafting a successful foreign policy is a challenging undertaking and a task not to be taken lightly.
However, observing these simple guidelines, most people can be successful in their efforts. Before resorting to the big stick, it makes sense to remember that in every conflict, there are human lives at stake, and therefore every effort should be applied to solve matters through negotiations.
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